Red-Tail Catfish   

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Red-Tail Catfish Factoids

Origin

Brasil and environs

Maximum Size

Three to four feet

Longevity

15 years – probably more

Housing

Incredibly large tank

Security

Likes caves when small

Substrate

None needed

Temperature

Prefers 70 to 80o

Attitude

Loafs all day.  Eats all night.

Foods

Anything plus rocks

Water

Keep clean

Threat

Heavy metals, ammonia

LA Pic
Very attractive four-inch red-tail catfish.

LA Pic
Even cuter at two inches.

LA Pic
Another cute two-incher.

LA
Very cool at nine inches.

Origins:  Apparently you can find these red-tailed Brazilian flatheads in much of the Amazon and its tributaries.  They call them mighty tasty pirararas locally.  They use pirañhas for bait.

Name:  Phracto = flat, cephalus = head,  hem = red, pterus = fin.  Or red-tailed flathead.  Same as our local flatheads plus a red tail and a less finicky appetite.  Our flatheads eat only live fish.  Red-tail catfish fish eat ‘em dead or alive (or plastic).

In the Wild:  Red-tail catfish eat crabs and fruits.

LA
Red-tail catfish rasslin' with a nightcrawler a couple inches longer than himself.

LA
Still working on it.

LA
Eventually, he will get it down.

 

Foods in Captivity:  Not known as picky eaters, red-tail catfish love fish, worms, and crustaceans (which bring out their reds).  They also eat enough pellets to bulge their bellies if given the opportunity.  Large red-tails also eat rocks and can apparently spit them out at will.

LA Pic
He's hungry so he's swimming around looking for food.

Occasional Fasts.  Any critter that “carbo-loads” at every meal needs an occasional meal off.  Give him a meatless Friday and let his digestive system catch up.  He’ll start swimming around when he gets hungry again.

Water:  Any water close to neutral works.  Red-tail catfish need frequent water changes because of their massive food intake. 

LA Pic
Fourteen-inch red-tail catfish in 55-gallon tank.  Pretty.  Pet Playhouse in Marion, IA.

Grows Huge:  The cute two-inch red-tail catfish you bought grows to three or four feet – 18-inches in the first year.  They live for 15 years.

LA Pic
Three 3-foot S.A. Red-tail catfish at Omaha zoo.  Stingrays in back.  Dark tank.
 

LA Pic
Local (alright, Kansas) flathead for comparison.  Similar except for color.

LA
Nicer smile on our hero.

Housing:  You can start a red-tail catfish in a ten.  You soon need a 55 and way on up.

LA Pic
Hiding in a one-inch PVC pipe.

 LA Pic
Two-inch red-tail cat "hiding" under a piece of slate leaned against front glass.

LA
This guy thinks he's hiding in a "ghost house."

Security:  Small red-tail catfish will spend their days hiding in caves.  As they grow, they need no security.

LA
Once your red-tail keys in on your hand, they learn to come up out of the water.

Friendly:  Red-tails make great pets.  They quickly learn to eat from your fingers.  Start by feeding them in the evenings.  They also put up with being petted.  We don’t recommend this, however they seem to like rubbing against your hand.

Bad Substrates:  Don’t put a lot of marbles or rocks on the bottom.  Red-tail catfish will eat anything swallowable.  What else would you expect from a critter that swallows crabs whole?

LA Pic
He was beaten up by an Asian red-tail catfish.

Mixers?  Not many other fish will mix with these critters -- especially smaller fishes.  Asian red-tail catfish tend to beat up South American catfishes of the same size.

Temperature:  As you might extrapolate from a fish that lives in the world’s second longest river, red-tail catfish adapt to a wide temperature range.

Breeding:  No breeding reports yet.  Here’s the way I’d do it … I'd give an Asian fish farmer 10 red-tail catfish.  Then come back in five years to pick up half the babies.

Shedding?  Red-tail catfish exude a mucous film occasionally.  It reminds you of caecilian worms in this respect.  You need to remove crud like this.

LA Pic
Two-inchers.

Fights:  Some keepers of red-tail catfish say the big ones fight.  We’ve seen some lunkers in zoos getting along just fine.  Still, one flathead is better than two flatheads.  Two would eat you out of house AND home.  One would just eat you out of house OR home.

Plants/Decor:  Sturdy plastics will work.  Root-looking pieces of wood will decorate and stay in one place (usually).

LA Pic
14 incher deciding whether you are food or not.

LA Pic
Four incher with nice full belly.  White snail eggs on glass.

LA Pic
Nice whiskers.

LA Pic
At 30 inches, he eats out of Randy Davison's hand -- Wet Pet Outlet, Eldora, Iowa.

LA Pic
Great big mouth with little, bitty teeth you can barely see.

LA
18-incher at Aqualand.

 

LA
We shall now make a goldfish disappear.

LA
Ta-DA.  We'd like to thank our helpful assistant.

LA
We bid him farewell Nov 25, 2005.  He went to Fort Dodge.


Here he is in his new 150-gallon tank.

LA
Pick one with a nice smile.

LA
Now hitting the market at two inches, it's hard to imagine just how large these guys grow.

Last Word:  Red-tail catfish make great specimen fish.  However, since the largest red-tail catfish caught on a hook and line weighed 97 pounds, few normal people should attempt to keep them.  LA.

LA
Just some more pix of these attractive catfish.

LA

LA

LA
Red-tails learn to eat out of your hand almost from day one.

LA
Third goldfish in a row.

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Red-tails do like to eat.

LA
4-foot red-tail catfish at our Des Moines Blank Park Zoo.

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